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Introduction to PMR 446

This is a fairly new allocation for short-range communications using hand-held units only. Being on UHF (446 MHz, as opposed to CB on 27 MHz) it is not compatible with CB sets - CB’s and PMR446’s cannot talk to each other. This service has some advantages over CB, but also some disadvantages...

There are only 8 channels, as opposed to CB’s 80... The maximum transmitted power is .5 watt, compared to CB’s 4 watts... You cannot connect an external antenna to the units, so the shielding effect when used inside metal vehicles cannot be overcome.

Despite the seemingly low transmitted power, for handheld-to-handheld communications, PMR446 will actually out-perform CB in terms of range (it’s all down to aerial efficiency!)... It is license-free, whereas you should have a CB license... There is a huge range of units available, some of which are extremely small - much smaller than CB’s will ever be.

Some companies will claim over 300 “channels” for the PMR446 units, but this is incorrect. You have 8 channels (different frequencies that you can transmit and receive on) but there are ways of making the receiver select who to listen to, so that you do not hear any other users who may be on the same frequency - this can give you over 300 combinations.

Having said this, there are only 8 channels, and if someone else is talking on the same channel as you and the person who wants to hear you is receiving the other user at about the same signal strength it’s likely that you will block each other out and nothing will be heard. This will only become a major problem in areas where there are a lot of users because by the nature of the 1-3km (1-2 miles) range, you will need to be fairly close to them to get problems.

PMR446 can actually be so flexible, ideal for recreational activities as well as for professional uses that many people have PMR’s for family communications, holidays, outings, keeping track of kids etc - irrespective of whether they use CB for other things or not.

The PMR446 Market

There are 3 areas to the PMR446 market :

1/ Domestic use - units that are built for occasional family use, often brightly coloured and child-friendly but not really able to stand up to much use or work particularly well. 2/ Professional use - units that are designed to be used all day, every day - these are a world apart from the domestic units, giving far superior performance, different facilities and build quality sometimes exceeding military specifications. 3/ The units in between - better quality than the cheaper units but without the cost of the Professional radios. Often with a good mix of facilities, these are ideal for families who want something that will work reasonably and not fall apart on it’s third outing!

There are a lot of differences in every way between the Professional units and the cheaper ones. The maximum output power is limited to .5 watt but this doesn’t mean that every unit will transmit this - the cheap ones will often be only half this figure and have poorer quality audio circuits and less efficient receivers - giving poor performance all round. If you have tried the cheaper units and have been disappointed, this doesn’t mean Pro PMR446 can’t do the job.

The type of facilities, their ease of use and the way they actually work are different on the Professional units - there are some that do everything, and some that are operationally quite basic but very high quality and well made.

We have tried most of the PMR446 units on the market (and there are many!) - and there are a few units that we recommend above others. If you want to know more about PMR446 or if it could be an option for you, just give us a call to discuss. There is a wealth of accessories like hands-free microphones for each unit to best suit any use. We do not supply the very cheapest units simply because they are not really up to much.

Click here to visit our PMR446 product pages

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